March 15th, 2009

Kindle 2

Critic vs. Librarian, p-book vs. e-book

People sometimes fall into jobs just because they are there, but that is less true of certain jobs. I don't think anyone who didn't love to read would become a book critic. Ditto for librarians. So, assuming both of them love books, it's interesting when two people in book-related jobs have a fundamental disagreement about ebooks and the Kindle. The Telereads blog had a post yesterday about a librarian taking issue with a book critic who had lamented that Kindle would devalue literature. Blogger David Rothman weighed in with his own opinion that both of them were ignoring the question of DRM and of Amazon getting too much control over what was sold—an excellent point—but seemed, on the whole, to side with the librarian.

As a real-world illustration of the whole situation, I recalled last night, when I went to Borders. Having read a wonderful book (see yesterday's post for my gushing endorsement of Dog On It) on my Kindle, I wanted to buy a print copy of it for my father's birthday present. There I was in the bookstore trying to find a print book on the shelf when I had an ebook copy in my purse, on my Kindle (which I always have with me). It occurred to me as the clerk helped me find the store's last remaining copy, that I had brought the enemy into Borders; to Borders, I might as well have had a bomb in my purse because the Kindle takes them out of the book business picture entirely. When I realized I might have not been able to buy a copy of the book if the store had run out, I was reminded that ebooks never run out.

So, I think the librarian is closer to the truth. With ebooks, it's not the authors who will lose out, it's the people who work at book stores. I don't think bookstores will go away, but I think they will shrink as eReaders become more common.

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